Seasonal songstress

Seasonal songstress

Melissa Manchester performs with  Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra

 By C.C. Hutten

 
Photo: Melissa Manchester will perform with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra at the Schuster Center on Dec. 6

In the midst of abundant pop operas across the nation during the holidays, Melissa Manchester’s Holiday Pop concerts at the Shuster Center on Friday, Dec. 6 and Saturday, Dec.7 offers Dayton audiences a fresh approach to pop opera music of the season.

“I love to be a part of this season,” Manchester said. “It’s the only time to sing these songs. It’s lovely to serenade hopefulness to audiences in anticipation of goodness. It gives people permission to put on something sparkly.”

Manchester grew up with music, but is best known as a singer/songwriter of adult contemporary music, and has been a successful one since the 1970s. She was discovered in 1971 by Barry Manilow and Bette Midler, and over time released hits like “Midnight Blue,” “Through The Eyes Of Love” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” She won Grammy awards in the late ’70s, and in 1980 became the first artist in the history of the Academy Awards to have two movie themes nominated in a single year.

“This career of mine is 40 years old,” Manchester said. “I still have the same hunger as I did when I first started. It’s grown with me.”

Conducted by her musical director of many years, Peter Hume, along with Dayton’s Patrick Reynolds, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra will accompany Manchester’s tremendous voice with beautiful compositions that carry the splendor of the holiday spirit.

Between singing her hits and Christmas favorites such as “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” she said her concert is different from other holiday shows because she will be performing songs that other people don’t sing.

“The season is so specific,” Manchester said. “If you can find a new angle to approach the season, it delights the fans. I think I’ve found that.”

Separate from Holiday Pop, Manchester will be on tour with Grammy winner Peabo Bryson, Ruben Studdard from “American Idol,” and gospel/R&B singer CeCe Winans performing holiday favorites in the program Colors of Christmas across the U.S. until Sunday, Dec. 22.

Her newest single, an updated version of “Be My Baby,” will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its original release by The Ronettes this year. Manchester said it is available to download for free on her official website, melissa-manchester.com, as a gift to her fans.

Another song that is near and dear to Manchester is one she wrote for a friend who lost a valiant battle to breast cancer, “Power of Ribbons.” The heartfelt song is available to be downloaded on iTunes and all royalties go towards breast cancer research.

In addition to her own musical career, Manchester is a teacher at University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. She said she teaches the art of conversational singing.

“Just because you wrote a song, doesn’t mean you know everything about it,” Manchester said. She teaches students the idea of being mindful of what is being sung about – how to makes songs intentional by turning them into a conversation that is not only with the audience.

“Being an artist is so much of an inside job,” she explained. “You’re always checking your soul. That’s why I love teaching. I’m very fortunate for my students.”

In addition to co-writing the music to The Sweet Potato Queens, a musical based on the best-selling book series by Jill Connor Brown, Manchester is also working on her 20th studio album, You Gotta Love Life, remaking songs that musically influenced her career as well as new songs that showcase her warm voice and perspective. You Gotta Love Life will be released in the spring or fall of 2014, she said. Four songs will be “American pop standards,” like she has been known for in the past, but the rest are original pieces.

Manchester said that as she has grown, her music has grown with her. She has become different lyrically and harmonically, and learned to play piano better. However, Manchester said she is appreciative for the songs she wrote early in her career.

“I am grateful for the precious songs I wrote in my early 20s,” Manchester admitted, “I don’t ever get bored of tired of singing them.”

Manchester mastered the art of turning her passion into a career and openly shares her love for music in her shows and with her fans and students. She said she really enjoys seeing fans after she performs. Manchester usually goes into the lobby of the venues and hugs and shakes hands to show appreciation for her audiences.

“I hope everyone has a lovely time. I know I will,” she said. “I will see everyone in the lobby.”

 

Holiday Pop with Melissa Manchester and Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra will take place on Friday, Dec. 6, and Saturday, Dec. 7, at 8 p.m. at Benjamin and Marian Shuster Performing Arts Center, 1 W. Second St. Tickets start at $21 and can be purchased at ticketcenterstage.com. For more information, please visit melissa-manchester.com.

 Reach DCP freelance writer C.C. Hutten at CCHutten@DaytonCityPaper.com.

 

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